Exclusive interview with Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal
May 18, 2012
by

Bumblefootinterview 264x300 Exclusive interview with Ron Bumblefoot ThalToday we have the honour of interviewing guitar virtuoso, The man, the myth, the Maverick Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal.  Ron is a prolific solo artist, producer and guitarist of Guns N Roses.

Currently on a 3 month tour of Europe with GnR, Ron kindly took sometime out to complete an interview for What-Music.

I would like to introduce you all to  Guns N Roses guitarist and general Avant Garde genius Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal.

Welcome Ron it is a pleasure to have this interview with you, I hope all is well and good in your world!

Heeeeeey!  All is well, thanks!  On a plane heading to Moscow at the moment, starting up a European Summer tour with Guns…

You were a prolific recording artist and producer before you joined Guns N Roses, but how did you end up playing in the band?

Joe Satriani recommended me, this was back in 2004.  From there we started having conversations about touring, recording, making plans, feeling each other out, this went on for about two months.  I went to go play in Moscow (somethin’ about Moscow…!), came back and recorded the Normal album, toured Europe twice and did some NY & LA shows, produced a bunch of bands, taught music production at SUNY Purchase College, then in 2006 Guns had a tour lined up and we picked up where we left off.  I had seven rehearsals with them and hit the road. 

How was the transition from Avant Garde guitar cult hero to stadium rock legend?

Playing is playing, I realized.  You close your eyes and you’re doing what you do, could be at a local bar or at a huge festival, you’re still doing what you do, you’re making music.  That’s what it’s about.

The Chinese Democracy tour has been going on for sometime now! How has this been and what are the most memorable moments of this tour?

Is it still the Chinese Democracy tour?  I don’t know, I think it’s kinda just ‘the tour’ at this point, haha.  So many wonderful memories.  And other memories that must stay buried or I’ll be curled up in a ball in the corner of the room, haha.  Most of my favorite memories on tour were the moments outside of the shows, things like going to the top of a snowy mountain at 5am after a show to watch the sun rise in a giant jacuzzi.  There’s been some funny show memories too – last tour, while I was playing Axl snuck behind me and tied me up in orange tape, haha!  Couldn’t break free…   playing Madison Square Garden was special, saw my first concert there, Kiss back in the ’70s.  Was a personal milestone to play there.

When touring with GnR do you miss not singing lead? Not only are you an awesome guitar player you also have a cracking voice!

I thank you kindly….!   I love singing, but it’s tough singing on tour.  One vocally-abusive night and you’re in trouble for the next dozen shows.  Catch a cold and sing a whole show and it becomes bronchitis that keeps getting worse.  I’ve been through that – it’s like the first time you get really bad food poisoning from fish, you’ll never wanna eat fish again.  Singing when your sick every night is like eating poisonous fish every night, it destroys you – you’ll be reluctant to risk ever going through that again.  Ahh, but when my throat isn’t ‘poison fish’, yeah I love singing.

Has there been any talk in the band of a new Guns N Roses album any time soon?

The band is full of strong writers, we’d make a great album together, but we’re still in tour mode, and the tour’s are going well… 

On to your solo music now, you have released 9 singles recently, are there any plans of these being put on one CD and is there any news on a new solo album?

I’ve thought about putting them on CD, it’s an option.  I’ve been so busy between touring and producing that I just don’t have nine months to go make an album.  That’s why I released the singles last year, one each month, for as long as I could until I had to hit the road again.  I was able to release songs as I finished them, keeping a steady stream of music.  Was able to get nine songs out, where if I was waiting to release a dozen or more as an album all at once, there would be nothing any time soon, with all the touring.  I’m so glad I released them the way I did, even released the version of “The Pink Panther Theme” I play live as my solo with Guns, and my GNR bandmates played on it.  The songs were more than just an MP3 each month – each was released with options of different hi-resolution formats, instrumental mixes, lead guitar transcriptions with backing tracks and reference mixes, and recording stems so people can make their own mixes. (www.bumblefoot.com/discography.php)  It was the best way to release the music, I was able to give a lot more with each song.

Where do you find your inspirations to create music and write lyrics? Songs for like Dash, More, Thank You and Ronald’s Comin’ Back Now all sound like they come from a personal place.

It’s all personal – most songs are, I think… story-telling and reactions to what we feel, what we experience.

The most important question of the day is……

When will you be returning to the UK to do a solo tour? I would literally give a limb to see that!

Hard to say, from here I can only see as far as the Guns Summer tour, not sure what happens after that…

You are revered as one of the friendliest men in the rock world, never too busy to pose for a picture, sign an autograph or comment on a post on Facebook.  Do you feel it is important to stay connected with the fans and does it help you to keep a level head and keep you on a plain of normality when touring.

This is how I am.  I’m nice to people when they’re nice, and I make as much time as I can for people. It’s definitely out of control though, I have to ease up.  Think of it this way – if 36,000 Facebook followers each send you only 1 message a year, that’s 100 messages a day.  Some will write 5x a day, some not at all, but you get the general idea.  Then there’s Twitter, email, Google+, forums and whatever else.  I was at the eye doctor before leaving for the airport today and was answering Facebook messages on my phone while getting the exam, trying to keep up with them all and answer as many people as I can.  But I’m not being fair to myself, and I’m not being nearly as productive.  I have to force myself to ease up.

Also you must be one of the busiest men in music, touring with GnR, releasing solo albums, producing many artists albums. How do you fit it all in? Does Bumblefoot have more than 24 hours in this day?

Ah, and answering those Facebook messages, haha.  The key to it is trusting yourself and not over-thinking things and second-guessing yourself too much.  Do well, and move on.  Don’t analyze and obsess, you’ll lose a lot of valuable time, and build an inefficient operating system.

What artists are you digging at the moment that the readers at What-Music.com should check out?

Thank You Scientist. (www.thankyouscientist.net) I love this band.  My vague description would be Dave Matthews meets Dream Theater, with inspirations of Incubus.  Their music makes me smile.

Chopin’s Fantasie Impromtu is my favourite piece of piano work, what possessed you to play this on guitar and how did this come about?

I was watching the TV show ‘Taxi’ as a kid, an episode where one of the characters got behind a piano and played it unexpectedly.  I didn’t know anything about the piano piece, just that I loved it and never forgot it.  Years later when I was getting to know more about classical music and composers, I came up with a way to play it on guitar.  When I was offered my first real release of music in ’91 as part of a comp CD, I recorded a version of it.

You are a man of many unique guitars!In total, how many guitars do you own and what is you most prized axe?

Not sure how many I have, it isn’t a lot though.  I was never a real guitar collector, I just had what I needed. Probably around 15 guitars?  As a kid I really got into guitar building and made some strange stuff… (www.bumblefoot.com/gear.php)  My favorite guitar was the “Swiss Cheese” guitar, until the “Flying Foot” came along, now it’s the Vigier (www.vigierguitars.com) fretted/fretless double-neck – I’m truly spoiled by it, it’s everything I need. 

Was there a specific event that made you think ‘thats what I want to do’ and pick up the guitar? Did you not originally want to be a bass player?

It was hearing the Kiss “Alive!” album when I was 5.  That did it.  I liked Gene Simmons’ character and wanted to be a bassist like him, but I was way too young.  So I started on guitar, and stuck with it.  Eventually I was able to play the bass too.

How would you describe your guitar playing style?

‘Fart in a bottle’.  Man, I have no idea, it’s like the playing is part of the song which is part of the person.  I guess it’s a li’l piece of me, inspired by all the bands and guitarists I loved growing up….?  Eddie Van Halen, Brian May, Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhoads. It’s a list that can go on and on…..

What is you secret of becoming a guitar god? Did it come naturally or was it from epic amounts of practice?

Don’t think too much.  And don’t ever think you’re more, or less, than just a person.

The age old question….. desert island….. one album….. what would it be and why?

Yes “Going For the One”

What would you rate as your top 5 guitar solos?

‘My’ top 5 solos as in ones I played…?  Not in any order, and I’m gonna think quick or I won’t be able to answer this – “Turn Around” (Normal CD), “Guitars Still Suck” (Abnormal CD), “Breaking” (Normal CD), “Vomit” (Hands CD), “There’s A Kind Of Hush” (2011 single)

Who are you top 5 fellow guitarist since 1980? My personal list would be Omar Rodrequiez-Lopez, John Frusciante, Buckethead, Kirk Hammett and your dear self.

Since 1980?  Hmmm…   ok same idea, no order, thinking fast and without taking anyone you already mentioned – Guthrie Govan, Christophe Godin, Vinnie Moore, Mattias Eklundh, Shawn Lane.

If you could construct the ultimate touring band with any musician dead or alive, who would you recruit?

Neil Peart (drums), Flea (bass), John Sykes (guitar/vocals), Jordan Rudess (keys), Tony Harnell (vocals).  And I wouldn’t play a damn thing, I’d just sit back and listen to them.

What is Ron’s one piece of advice for 2012 for the the readers at What-Music.com?

Support local farms.

That’s a rap folks, I would just like to thank the wonderful god like guitar genius know as Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal for taking time out of his busy schedule to complete this interview, it has been a pleasure and an honour and we would all like to wish you and the rest of the band all the best for the upcoming European tour. Good day to you sir!

Thank you for all!!  Been a pleasure!!

~ Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal

www.bumblefoot.com

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